3D Printing of ICoolers and R&D Tax Credits


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Now that summer is at its end, it’s time to retire that worn out cooler and upgrade to a brand new, accessorized 3D printed cooler. Have you ever been to the beach when your phone dies? Today, most consumers look for specific features when searching for the right cooler, such as durability, size and the ability to provide enough storage space without sacrificing efficacy over extended periods of time. Some consumers go one step further and view their coolers as a multifunctional device where, for example, a fisherman can use the top of the lid to measure and cut fish. In a day and age where technology is so largely depended upon, many beachgoers are now looking to buy coolers that are equipped with a USB charger to be able to charge a speaker, e-reader or mobile phone, along with other accessories to make the best of their day out with their cooler.  Many companies and startups are now researching different ways to cost-effectively produce these multi-functional coolers, and 3D printing has proved, once again, to be successful.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • Technological in nature
  • New or improved products, processes, or software
  • Elimination of uncertainty
  • Process of experimentation

Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent.  On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax and start-up businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.

The Nipi Smart Cooler

How about taking your picnic or camping excursion to the next level and investing in a Nipi smart cooler? This 3D printed cooler, which is manufactured 75% faster than most coolers, runs on self-generated solar powered energy to keep drinks cool from all day to all weekend long. It also comes equipped with cup holders, a cutting board, a safe as well as LED lighting and a charging hub. Luke Guttery, the product design leader at Nipi Cooler, explained that 3D printing has allowed for a decrease in time spent creating the designs and an increase in manufacturing and selling to the customer. The futuristic design is printed into fruition using an ASA Stratasys FDM machine and is comprised largely of UV resistant material.

Coolest Cooler

As rapid prototyping becomes increasingly popular, so are 3D printed coolers. The Coolest Cooler, sometimes referred to as the portable party machine, includes a cocktail station complete with a rechargeable blender, a cooler divider that doubles as a cutting board, and integrated storage for plates and knives. The cooler features other fun and useful amenities such as a removable waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, and LED lid lighting. With amenities such as these, it is no surprise that the development process is a complex and challenging one. Fortunately, 3D printing makes it possible to easily and effectively manufacture these coolers in just a few days, which includes creating 55 functional parts. Coolest Cooler developer Ryan Grepper owes the success of moving the party machine from prototype to final production to 3D printing.

3D Printed Accessories for Ice Coolers

Many components can be 3D printed, assembled together and to comprise the accessories for coolers. These parts, which include screw threads, blender blades, stainless steel hinges, and handles, are all simple pieces that are developed quickly as well as easily assembled and disassembled. Utilizing 3D printing makes it possible for ice cooler companies to increase their bottom line by cost-effectively fabricating the components and accessories of their coolers.

Grizzly Coolers, based out of Decorah, Iowa, offers accessories for their coolers that are 3D printed, one of which includes a dry goods tray for inside the cooler. This provides the cooler with a tray to keep their contents such as food dry. Igloo Coolers, headquartered in Katy, Texas, prevents their handles from breaking by 3D printing their hinges. Additionally, their coolers feature a UV and heat resistant material where solar panels can easily be installed to keep drinks cooler.

Solar Paneled Medicine Fridge

A solar powered cooler could be the perfect solution for preserving medicine when in remote areas. The Sure Chill Fridge is a 3D printed cooler that was depended upon during the 2014 Ebola virus in West Africa. The cooler was able to keep the medicine cold for extended periods of time. The technology this ice chest was based on was rather simple; the cooler begins with a temperature of 48C, and as the temperature increases, the water is able to rise to the ice. Then, as the water cools again, it sinks which in turn regulates the fridge temperature.

Tail Gating Design Coolers

As fall starts to set in, cooler manufacturing and engineering teams have to work together to design and produce more innovative coolers. These coolers, used for camping or tailgating, can feature amenities such as rechargeable blenders as well as plates and a cutting board, complete with knife kits. The added options are virtually limitless and many can be developed using 3D printers.


3D printing of Icoolers provides another market for innovators to build upon on-demand manufacturing of replacement parts. Coolers have become an essential item for outdoor activities, from the resourceful outdoorsman to the daily adventurer.  They serve multiple useful functions, whether it’s storing a large punch bowl for a summer BBQ or storing freshly caught fish on a boat. Furthermore, used coolers can house a tool chest or even an emergency car kit. Companies, designers, and other individuals engaging in research and development pertaining to 3D printed ice chests are eligible for federal and state R&D tax credits.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts below.


Charles R. Goulding and Alizé Margulis of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing for the manufacture of coolers.


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